A video of the crowds at Bloc.2012 posted on YouTube.
99 problems but the clashes ain’t one
It seemed at first Bloc organisers would do anything to keep us happy. With Four Tet and Flying Lotus set to overlap, the line up was re-jigged to quieten our groans. With a slick website, monster line up and a purpose built play ground it was set to be the weekend of our lives. We were promised a gangsters paradise, but what went down now feels as bizarre as a Bobby Ewing strobe shower scene. As we arrived in London armed with virgin glow sticks, laminated timetables and charged Oyster cards little did we think that clashes and sleep deprivation would be the least of our worries.
Ah man you see that queue
On exiting the DLR you could not help but notice the queue snaking from the entrance the whole way along the perimeter of the London Pleasure Gardens. Fortunately express tickets (which cost an extra 25 pounds and meant that our group bypassed this cattle queue), meant our Bloc experience was very different to the majority of ticket holders. Without these golden tickets we could have had a far worse festival experience.
See you at Jaar?
As it happens the only act that we saw on dry land at Bloc was Nicolas Jaar. His recent BBC Essential Mix has spurned many a tipsy debate (personally I think it works best when it’s dissected rather than a two hour listen). Performing a live set with a full band he proved that while his Essential Mix may divide, his live shows will draw, unite and impress. A worthwhile starting point to a (supposed) weekend of debauchery, but more impressive than seeing him buried in the forest last year at Body and Soul? – nope.
Huh you see that queue?
Leaving Jaar we walked into yet another buzz kill of a queue (this time for the main stage). Call me old fashioned but the makings of a good festival are that you have the freedom to see what you want, when you want. Sometimes a small queue for a heaving tent might disappoint but generally there are plenty other options available. And the not so secret key to running a successful festival? Get them in, get them spending and get them dancing. Since the Bloc shock Google hits throw up videos, images and chat room rants about just what really went down -enraged punters, frazzled security and a downright mess. I’m no safety expert (more of a professional messer) yet even at 8pm with a few cocktails in me it was clear that all was not right.
We need to get on that boat
Meet the MS Stubnitz- a 2,500 tonne former Communist fishing vessel -a self confessed ‘cultural ark’. Once destined for the scrap yard it was rescued and re branded as a travelling nautical venue, docking to dance at almost twenty different ports since 1994. Approaching this East German relic we were met with yes you have guessed it another line that actually appeared to be getting wider than longer. Jumping on board through the press office (yes I was that guy) I decided to go ahead on a scout mission and wait for my comrades onboard.
The Stubnitz is set up over three levels- the deck , a middle level (which housed The Boiler Room) and in the Stubnitz hull (turned day-glo dance floor) where the communist beast really came alive (insert joke about mass paranoia being felt in the days after the festival) . I danced and explored among the steel corridors , steep steps and nautical ropes. The deeper you went below sea level the messier and grimier it seemed to get. After being reunited with my Bloc buddies we finally got the feeling that the much promised magic had begun.
Look Mom I made the Boiler Room!
The Boiler Room is where I spend most of my time these days, so to pay homage was a hipsters wet dream. We bounced between levels, taking in Ben Simms, got giddy to Oneman, experienced Loefah finishing his set with Goodlife and got rowdy to Boddika -our adopted Fuhrer. We drank beer from dirty glasses, were covered in sweat and booze (not even our own) and we couldn’t have been happier.
What we did not know was that the Stubnitz was in the eye of a hurricane that had hit outside (or if you will, a massive shit storm) .Right before the rip of Mercy VIP MC Chunky announced “the police are outside – we have to shut the party down “. At first we thought it was a ploy to make us even more gaga, or that it was just the ship that the polizei had a problem with. Making a quick fire decision to exit the boat to Steffi we were met with security, punters and London’s finest telling us to down our party tools and make your way to the next exit. We were literally 50 Shades of Grey.
On asking a bluecoat just why they were shutting it down we were told in no uncertain terms that it was the organisers who called them in and that it was unlikely that the event would go ahead the next day.
During our own emergency meeting (held at 3.30am on a sofa bed at Canary Wharf) we pieced the night together. While comparing theories and with the grim reality setting in one thing was certain – someone, somewhere deserved the Alex Ferguson hairdryer treatment. Bloc were now the world’s biggest party poopers.
It’s The London Pleasure Gardens – Not Narnia
We are in London, not a mythical land so we can’t conjure up exits, land or common areas. Maybe, just maybe 15,000 punters would have fitted in the gardens as a whole, but when you consider the majority of the festival and tents were contained in less than half of the U -shaped area it does not make sense.
Green areas were cordoned off with signs asking to keep off the grass (it seemed it was needed for the Olympic Games) leaving the ultimate dilemma – divilment vs national pride.
Further internet posts suggest that the tent capacities did not add up so had everyone (safely) fitted in, there would have been draconian queues for just about everything. Couple this with a backlog of people to get in (some apparently standing in line for three and four hours at his stage) forget a piss up in a brewery – Bloc were unable to organise a rave in a field.
To further confuse issues the Metropolitan Police issued a statement blaming the situation on the rain (strange because there was no rain) making the whole experience as bizarre as a Tom Cruise pre nup. And as much as the PR machine rolled into overdrive it became one massive boulevard of broken Bloc dreams. One just has to ask- it wasn’t Kevin Cardiff looking after the figures by any chance?
Lets Check Twitter
The following morning, when we should have been preparing for round deux we were checking twitter feeds, hashtags and the world wide web. Bloc 2012 had been replaced with Anti Bloc-alternative parties for the walking wounded. We could see Jacques Green tweeting Kode 9 to see if he was free that night, artists tweeting for venues to play in as well as everyday people venting at the unfortunate tangent that had become Anti Bloc.
That night we were musical refugees wandering the streets for our Anti Bloc fix. For us our wristbands were war wounds, colored scars serving as a reminder of what could have been. In the end with the Jacques Greene Peckham party being too far away and Flying Lotus Anti Bloc full by 11pm ( we found ourselves ironically in yet another queue) Kenny Dope and Luke Solomon in Corsica Studios became our salvation (close but no Stubnitz). We came, we saw, we conquered dance floors-just not where we expected to.
Baby I got your money
The next few days were spent absorbing world wide web rants, reluctantly cutting off wristbands ( in time honoured tradition they are not removed till we were at home ) and making sad faces at our unopened box of glow sticks .
Before we had a chance to properly mourn the Bloc shock and despite promises of investigations and refunds, Bloc filed for administration. With All Tomorrow’s Parties entering administration the week earlier ( albeit for different reasons ) and the public trying to separate the Brian Boyd hysteria from the Phoenix Park trees one has to wonder about the future of festivals here and abroad.
My suggestion? Bring the back the almighty Stubnitz four times a year. I’m done with consumerist and capitalist models – communism it seems might be the only way forward.